0370 270 6000

Is your complaints process fit for purpose?

28 November 2019

As part of the advisory service we offer schools, recent enquiries have arisen from academies being contacted by the Department for Education (DfE) about their complaints policies. Academies and schools have been in the process of reviewing the same and have looked to the DfE best-practice guidance contained in the School Complaints Procedures 2019, and their model complaints procedure. It should be noted that the guidance and model procedure and policy issued by the DfE are applicable to maintained schools and not to academies.

Academies should ensure that their complaints policy/procedure complies with Part 7 of the Schedule to the Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014. This requires that an academy’s complaints policy:

  1. is in writing;

  2. is made available to parents of pupils;

  3. sets out clear timescales for the management of a complaint;

  4. allows for a complaint to be made and considered initially on an informal basis;

  5. where the parent is not satisfied with the response to the complaint made in accordance with sub-paragraph (d), establishes a formal procedure for the complaint to be made in writing;

  6. (where the parent is not satisfied with the response to the complaint made in accordance with sub-paragraph (e), makes provision for a hearing before a panel appointed by or on behalf of the proprietor, consisting of at least three people who were not directly involved in the matters detailed in the complaint;

  7. ensures that, where there is a panel hearing of a complaint, one panel member is independent of the management and running of the school;

  8. allows for a parent to attend and be accompanied at a panel hearing if they wish;

  9. (provides for the panel to make findings and recommendations and stipulates that a copy of those findings and recommendations:

  10. (i) is provided to the complainant and, where relevant, the person complained about; and
    (ii) is available for inspection on the school premises by the proprietor and the head teacher;

  11. provides for a written record to be kept of all complaints made in accordance with sub-paragraph (e) documenting:
    (i) whether they are resolved following a formal procedure, or proceed to a panel hearing; and
    (ii)action taken by the school as a result of those complaints (regardless of whether they are upheld); and

  12. provides that correspondence, statements and records relating to individual complaints are to be kept confidential except where the Secretary of State or a body conducting an inspection under section 109 of the 2008 Education and Skills Act requests access to them.

Whilst academies which follow these regulations do have appropriate complaints policies, we have identified that a frequent weakness is where academies do not appoint an independent person to the panel when a complaint has reached the complaints panel stage, or where the policy does not cover the retention of confidentiality of records relating to the complaint. You should exercise caution appointing an ‘independent’ person where you are part of a multi-academy trust. In addition, you should ensure that any records you do keep which relate to a complaint, are also covered in your retention and destruction policy for the purposes of Data Protection compliance.

Training and events


Training for Lead Safeguarding Governors and Trustees Interactive session via Zoom

This course runs over 2 x 90 minute sessions and commences with he first session at 4pm on the 10th October and then the 2nd session at 4pm on the 17th October. This tailored lead safeguarding course is designed specifically for your Lead Safeguarding Governor/Trustee. Building on our course for all governors and trustees, in this course delegates focus on the role of the Lead Safeguarding Governor/Trustee and the relationship with the DSL.

Session one: 4pm to 5.30pm on 10 October 2022 and
Session two: 4pm to 5.30pm on 17 October 2022

View event

Focus on...

Employment Law – Harpur Trust v Brazel – Implications for schools webinar

On 20 July 2022, the Supreme Court issued its long-awaited judgment in the case of Harpur Trust v Brazel, upholding the decision of the Court of Appeal. For those of you familiar with this case, you will know that it concerns the statutory leave requirements for part-time and part-year workers. For schools and academies whose workforce consists of a variety of types of part-time and part-year workers, this case is one that must be understood before any changes are applied. Come and join Emma Hughes, Head of HR Services as she puts questions to Ian Deakin, Employment Partner, and Sarah Linden, Senior Associate.


Press releases

Leading education lawyers play major role as DfE announces 10,000th academy conversion

The Department for Education (DfE) have announced that the conversion of Donisthorpe Primary School in Leicestershire on 1st September marked the 10,000th academy conversion.



How to carry out the KCSiE online checks FAQs

There is (understandably) some confusion about the steps schools and trusts need to take to discharge the new online check duty set out in paragraph 220 of KCSIE. I can’t completely clarify all of it for you, but I can help you find a sensible route through. These FAQs are a good place to start.


Legal updates

Understanding the Appropriate Adult expectation

One of three significant changes to Keeping Children Safe in Education 2022 is a new expectation that Designated Safeguarding Leads (DSLs) should be aware of the requirement for children to have an Appropriate Adult. The guidance says nothing more than that, but the DfE has updated the Searching, Screening and Confiscation Advice to include a new section on strip searches. In this briefing I explain how to meet this new requirement and help you understand what steps you need to take when involving the police in pupil searches.


The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

Mailing list sign up

Select which mailings you would like to receive from us.

Sign up